John Lee Hancock writes and directs ‘The Little Things,’ a described neo-noir thriller that was released simultaneously into theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service.
Kern County deputy sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) arrives in Los Angeles to get collect evidence for a case his department is working on. While there, he stumbles onto Detective Jimmy Baxter (Rami Malek) who is working on a case of unsolved serial killings that match a case Deke was working on before he transferred under dark circumstances. At first, Jimmy is taken aback by Deke’s unorthodox approach to solving crime but gains respect for him after he helps Baxter and his partner Detective Jamie Estrada (Natalie Morales) find evidence at a new crime scene. As they work together, they discover a suspect named Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) who seems to relish the attention the police are giving him. They follow him around LA, but Deke keeps having visions of the case that caused him to leave the city and Jimmy begins to wonder about his own motivations in solving the crimes.
Hancock wrote the first draft in 1993 hoping that Steven Spielberg would direct it, but the Jaws director passed it over. Other directors have been attached to the project before Hancock ultimately decided to make it himself. I have to give him kudos for sticking to the project until he was able to give it a proper cinematic release.
As for the plot, I feel like I have seen this movie before. Similar to a feature like Kiss The Girls, it follows the old tropes of a neo-noir thriller and adds nothing new to the genre. It has all of the hallmarks. A young idealistic partner working with a jaded mentor. An antagonist who is taunting them. A bleak look at the city. Feelings of justice being denied. You get the picture. That being said, the story is still interesting as we follow along with the detectives chasing a killer. It did have some interesting twists and turns that keep you invested in the story, for a time at least.
The problem lied in the acting, as much as I hate to say it. Denzel Washington and Rami Malek are incredibly talented actors, but they are never given the opportunity to actually act. They both are so muted in the performances that the emotion only resonates when there is anger. As for Jared Leto, sure he gives off a creepy vibe, but the dude cannot act. As usual, he just changes his voices and gives us a mediocre performance as the antagonist in all of this. I was not impressed and actually rolled my eyes when he delivered an ironic line to Denzel’s character.
One final thought, the movie takes place in the early nineties, but it does not once give off that vibe. If anything, it tried to make itself look like it took place earlier. With a few exceptions, they left out a lot of anachronisms that could have made it stand out as movie taking place in its decade, but it felt like it went out of its way to avoid that label. Whether this was intentional or not, I cannot say, but it was a glaring thing to me as a nineties kid.
Botton line, The Little Things is a redundant, though interesting film that follows the neo-noir tropes to the letter. It has some good qualities, but falls short in the acting quality.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Graphic crime scene imagery, Soul foul language, Sexual innuendo, Violence
FAVORITE QUOTE: It’s the little things that get you caught.
Check out the trailer below:
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